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French gov’t survives no-confidence votes over pension reform


Lawmakers are filing two motions to protest President Macron’s decision to bypass parliament to raise the retirement age.

The French government narrowly survived two votes of no confidence in parliament after President Emmanuel Macron pushed through a pension reform that met fierce opposition from workers and some politicians.

The motions on Monday were tabled by lawmakers outraged by Macron’s decision last week to bypass parliament and raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 by using special constitutional powers.

A first multi-party motion was defeated by nine votes, while the 577-seat National Assembly overwhelmingly rejected a second motion from the far right. In the absence of both votes, the pension change is considered adopted. It now goes to the Constitutional Court for review and could become law in the coming days.

The narrow result on the first ballot prompted some left-wing lawmakers to immediately call for the resignation of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.

“Only nine votes are missing… to bring down both the government and its reforms,” said far-left lawmaker Mathilde Panot. “The government is already dead in the eyes of the French. It no longer has any legitimacy.”

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen said her group would petition the Constitutional Council on Tuesday to investigate and possibly censor the bill.

Macron says the pension reform is necessary to prevent the system from plunging into deficit as France’s population ages.

But critics of the reform disagree, saying it places an unfair burden on low earners, women and those in physically demanding jobs. Opinion polls have consistently shown that two-thirds of French people oppose the changes.

Opposition to the bill echoed in the streets. French workers have been protesting for weeks, promising to step up pressure on the government and eventually force it to scrap the law.

“The political battle is not over yet,” said Al Jazeera’s Natacha Butler.

“There’s a lot of frustration among some people who feel that the government is out of touch with the concerns, and there’s a lot of feeling in the air, … a sense of social unease and unease with the government,” Butler said .

She noted that the mood resembled the atmosphere of a wave of protests that began in late 2018. At the time, the so-called yellow vests, protesters known for the safety vests they wore, rioted against a plan to raise fuel taxes, which was subsequently withdrawn, as well as other policies Macron was pushing for, the rising cost of living and economic inequality.

In Paris, garbage stinks as it piles higher and higher on the 15th day of a collectors’ strike. The three main incinerators serving the French capital are largely blocked, as is a waste sorting center northwest of Paris. Some refineries that supply gas stations are also at least partially blocked.

Hundreds of mostly young protesters gathered at Les Invalides, Napoleon’s final resting place, on Monday to demonstrate against pension reform. Some rubbish bins were set on fire, but the protest was otherwise peaceful. Participants listened to the proceedings in the National Assembly through a channel broadcast on loudspeakers from a union van.

“The aim is to support the striking workers in Paris, … to put pressure on this government, which wants to pass this unjust, ruthless and useless and ineffective law,” said Kamel Brahmi of the left-wing CGT union. a megaphone in the Romainville sorting plant.

Unions demand the government withdraw the pension changes and called for new nationwide protests on Thursday.

Political expert Francoise Gere of the French Institute for Strategic Analysis said France is facing a “dangerous political and social crisis”.

“It is the beginning of a new form of political crisis, a combination of more frequent street demonstrations and strikes, increasingly damaging the country’s economy, combined with a government that cannot rely on a strong political majority,” Gere told Al Jazeera, who warns that a deep and serious crisis is brewing.

“The main problem here is that this government is no longer credible,” Gere said. “There is a crisis of legitimacy and Macron will have to deal with this situation.”

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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